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Did Hines VA Hospital Keep 'Secret Wait Lists'?

Auditors visited Hines on Wednesday after a whistleblower told CBS News secret lists are allowing VA officials to collect bonuses and hide delays in care.

CHICAGO — Federal auditors descended on Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital on Wednesday, just one day after a CBS News report alleging manipulation of waiting lists for patient care.

These "secret waiting lists," a whistleblower told CBS News, make the numbers look better and allow hospital executives to collect bonus money.

"Employees are coming to me from all over the hospital, from outpatient, inpatient, surgery, radiology," said Germaine Clarno, VA social worker and employee representative, suggesting that the practice is widespread.

The hospital reports that it provides medical care to more than 50,000 Chicago-area veterans in a year.

According to Clarno, this is how the scam works: When a veteran calls the hospital for an appointment, the veteran is placed on the secret list. An actual appointment in the computer would not be booked until an opening would arise within a 14-day window.

Clarno told CBS she believes people are faking the wait-time data to receive bonuses.

CBS first reported on problems at VA hospitals when another whistleblower, Dr. Samuel Foote, who spent decades working at the VA, revealed efforts to conceal delays in care at a facility in Phoenix where as many as 40 military veterans may have died while awaiting treatment.

Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, has been under fire ever since the scandal broke earlier this year. CNN revealed that top management in Phoenix was aware of the elaborate scandal. Shinseki will testify before Congress on Thursday about the delays.

Now the scandal has reached Chicago, and federal investigators reportedly are looking into facilities in Wyoming, Colorado and Texas, too. A spokesman said this is part of a nationwide review ordered by Shinseki.

In Chicago, hospital director Joan Ricard released a statement to the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday saying she “received no evidence or specific facts about data manipulation” at Hines.

Ricard said the information Clarno brought to her attention was not a "secret waiting list" but was “a performance improvement tool.”

Veterans told CBS News that appointments in Chicago take much longer than 14 days.

"It can be anywhere between one, two, three, four months," said Paul Rodriguez, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, who sees several doctors at Hines.

» Learn more via CBS News

Grandpamike May 15, 2014 at 08:00 PM
@Herc I knew going in that it was a mistake trying to explain things to you, knowing that your comprehension level was kind of low, which has been amply shown by your ignorant responses. Yes, vets like me and other vets are the ruination of this country, that's how dumb you are. You are just another right wing hater with limited skills and blame others for your own misfortunes in life. Others go to war to protect your right to make ridiculous comments, but unfortunately we cannot determine which of the species to fight for. So, you can make any snarky reply you wish, as this is the last conversation that I will have with you.
Jim Court May 15, 2014 at 08:34 PM
I worked at Hines Hospital for ten years. When I first started they were embracing a concept called TQI or total quality improvement wh o was founded by MR. Deming. This man essentially made the Japanese Auto manufacturing into the powerhouse it would soon become. I absolutely embraced the concept as it was more than obvious that the VA was sorely in need of improvement. How naive I was. Survival in the VA depends more on going along to get along. Work requirements were absolutely minimal yet everybody was "working so hard". What I learned was that the VA existed to support the bureaucracy and the jobs attached to it and that the vets were simply pawns in a game that was a necessary inconvenience. Yes, the were some good and dedicated staff but they seemed to be in a minority. I never experienced so much dysfunction in my life. The Vets would truly be better off with a Blue Cross/ Blue Shield card where they could go to any facility or Doctor. The VA would be better if it was closed and monies redirected to more constructive ends. It is a hugely wasteful bureaucracy that values ongoing remodeling than it really cares about the Vets. I still get calls from workers telling me how bad things are and how morale is completely absent. I do not mean to include everybody in this statement but they are the exceptions to the rule.
Edward Andrysiak May 16, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Here is why I can't wait for this "commander in grief' to be out of office. As head of the military you would think he would hop in this problem and get it fixed. Instead he waits for someone other than himself to find the solution...like he is having an out of body experience and just looking in on the goings on. At this point there is no other immediate fix other than servicing vets in the private sector via Medicare providers and family Doctors and Hospitals...Vets get a VA voucher/card to use just like Medicare. How hard would it be to implement that? Where the hell is that executive order pen he is so good with. I guess that would signal that his Obama care isn't going to work either. It sickens me to know that the gangbangers in the south side of Chicago get better and more immediate care than our Vets.
Harry Callahan May 16, 2014 at 06:31 PM
To all Veterans I think its time to take our country back whats left of it.
Just sayin June 23, 2014 at 03:09 PM
Maybe the problem is there isn't enough staff and not enough space for all departments? Not making excuses, just saying. I know I'm late on this post, but maybe that is something to look into?


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